Originally created 12/26/05

Across Georgia

Robber wounds girl, 7, on Christmas Eve

EAST POINT - A Christmas Eve robbery left a 7-year-old girl with a gunshot wound.

The incident began around 10 a.m. Saturday when Saul Loera was confronted by a gunman as he was taking out the garbage. The gunman forced him back into his apartment, where his family was, and demanded money.

Mr. Loera's wife, Norma, who was in a back room with their two daughters and a baby sitter, gave the robber their money, said Juan Lira, who lives with the family.

A struggle ensued between Mr. Loera and the robber, East Point Police Capt. Russell Popham said. During the struggle, the gun went off twice. One of the bullets hit little Pati Loera in the lower leg.

A nurse at Hughes Spalding Children's Hospital said the bullet went through the girl's calf and exited without hitting the bone.

The gunman got away.

All mail leads to town with seasonal name

BETHLEHEM - Postal pilgrims from across the state headed to Bethlehem's tiny post office so their Christmas cards would bear a cancellation stamp from the name of the birthplace of Jesus.

"People make a little pilgrimage to come here to bring their cards," said Kathy Montgomery, the northeast Georgia town's postmaster. "For some of them, it's family tradition. For some, it's curiosity."

Ultimately, about 130,000 pieces of mail will move through the post office's antique cancellation machine, which roars to life around each Thanksgiving. The town won't cancel mail at any other time of the year.

Last year, the post office received mail sent from France. This year, a stack of cards from Israel came in. Most of the post office's visitors are drawn from across Georgia, though.

During the Christmas rush, postal workers don Santa hats and reindeer antlers to deliver last-minute presents, and clerks patiently handle the crush of visitors that has only grown as Bethlehem and surrounding communities expand.

"We have the spirit of Christmas more here than they do anywhere else," said Ms. Montgomery.

Church service is all about the Bulldogs

ATHENS - Southerners like to say that football is a religion, but at Compass Community Church, it really is.

The church picked the University of Georgia Bulldogs as a theme for its Christmas Eve services Saturday. The ceremony featured UGA football coach Mark Richt; a relative of team mascot Uga named Georgia; star defensive end Quentin Moses; and Adam Johnson, a former player who now works at Compass.

The Rev. Jim Carpenter picks a different theme every five or six weeks in an effort to draw people who don't ordinarily attend church, he said.

The nondenominational service resembles a variety show more than a typical church service. An eight-member band performed a medley of Christmas tunes and pop songs, Also on the program were a skit inspired by the Saturday Night Live Spartan cheerleaders, a video of football highlights, and interviews of Mr. Johnson and Mr. Moses


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